As we were putting this School Security-focused issue together, the Texas House approved legislation to provide funding to improve school security, including provisions to install silent panic buttons in each classroom and an armed security officer at every Texas K-12 school. This comes just about a year after the Robb Elementary tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.
Much was learned in the aftermath of that tragedy, and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has worked diligently with schools throughout the state to understand where the shortfalls are in security, while working with lawmakers to bring about change through school security legislation. These efforts, supported by communities like Uvalde who have had to go through the unthinkable, are trying to initiate real change to the way we, as a society, look at school security and safety.
“I think it’s great that they're brave enough to take these steps,” said Guy Grace, who served for 30 years as the director of security and emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools in Colorado. I spoke with Grace for my School Security feature (see page 24) on the latest updates to the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) Guidelines.
While Grace is quick to give Texas educators and lawmakers credit for taking swift action – allocating funding, creating minimum standards, doing audits, etc. – he urges Texas school leaders to take the proper steps when enacting certain provisions within this legislation. For example, with an armed guard at every school, proper training, funding and support for these armed guards will be essential.
With the silent panic alert buttons, it is important for schools to fully understand that technology, as well as the top companies that provide those solutions, including the network they use to communicate, such as Bluetooth, so that the wrong solutions don’t end up in place. Guidance and education on this will also be key to a successful rollout.
Allocating funding so schools throughout Texas can at least reach a minimum level of security is a good step, but Grace urges school leaders to take advantage of great free resources such as PASS, a 503c non-profit formed in 2014 to provide school security and safety guidelines to school administrators, school boards and public safety and security professionals with a road map for implementing a layered and tiered approach to enhancing the safety of school environments and a tool to prioritize needs.
“We’ve got to give Texas credit for doing this, but I must emphasize that we can’t neglect the key security pillars because those locks, those classroom locks, your cameras, your access control from the perimeter all the way to the classroom – those are tools that will help protect,” Grace asserted.
Additional information on PASS can be found at passk12.org.